Bad water: Avoiding a home nightmare

Don't assume you can handle the mold in the house you're buying. Don't assume a river of water won't run through your new home on move-in day. And never assume that just because the health department approves a new well, the water is safe to drink.

Those are harsh lessons for local homebuyers recently reported in The Hook.

So if you're getting ready to buy a house how do you find out if the water supply may be threatened by the biggest petroleum spill in Albemarle County?

The Department of Environmental Quality has a website for its petroleum program at that uses Geographic Information System tracking to home in on a specific address. Yellow dots mean a petroleum release– but you'll have to call the DEQ to find out how serious it is. The regional office in Harrisonburg is 540-574-7800.

The DEQ is also tracks hazards in the air, water, and waste (in case your lot borders a landfill).

But what if your new abode is near one of Albemarle's six spots monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency– including the county's infamous Superfund site: the former Greenwood Chemical plant? That's going to require a trip to the EPA's website at

"There's no one-stop shopping," says Tamara Ambler, Albemarle's natural resources manager. However, you can call her or David Swale in community development at 296-5832, and they'll check out the place you're considering to see what potential dangers lurk.

And just to be sure, you can always hire someone to do an environmental site assessment, as many are doing now to avoid nasty surprises. Ask questions if there's anything you don't understand.

And don't assume.